(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
I didn’t see daddy that evening until it was too late to talk—he looked shattered. He had left before I finished getting the girls ready for school, so we didn’t speak again. After dropping the offspring at their secure unit and nodding my greeting to the chief warder Maria, I drove into work. Things were buzzing, people were chatting in corridors and when I walked past they went quiet. It was obviously something to do with the previous day’s tragedy and I had been one of the last people to see him according to the police.
“Seen the headline in the Echo?” asked Diane as I flitted through her office into mine.
“No, what lurid lie have they today?”
“See for yourself.” She rose from her desk and handed the much despised local rag to me as i stepped back a few paces to take it.
‘University don strangles wife and kills himself.’ was the banner headline.
“At least it doesn’t mention us precisely.” I said before reading any further.
“It does in the text, several times. It even says you were the last person to see him before he did the deed--‘What did you say to him that made him turn killer?’”
“That explains why the stony looks and silent treatment in the corridor.”
“What did you say to him?”
“Not a lot, just hoped he got his car back.”
“Can’t see why that should make me the suspect in a double killing.”
“Unless you went round there and did it after you left here.”
“Sure in between leaving here at three o’clock and collecting three little maids from school.”
“Perhaps they helped you.”
“They do in all the murders I perpetrate, don’t yours?”
“Go and read it I’ll put the kettle on.”
“It won’t fit,” I said to the space she’d been in a moment before. Some sort of grunt came back as a reply, probably one of scorn. Sitting at my desk I quickly scanned the pages relating to the story—it was all surmise of the most scandalous variety and before finishing the report I was reaching for the phone and left a message for Jason to call me regarding a libel case—he likes those as he gets a share of the damages—not that either of us need money, but the principle demands some sort of punishment that requires the offender to think twice in the future before repeating the calumny. Usually, that involves large lumps of money.
Tea arrived and I drank it while waiting for Jason to call back. It was difficult to settle waiting for that sort of call and when the phone eventually did ring, it was Tom not Jason. I managed to put off going to see him for an hour. Jason called half way to that appointment time.
I explained what had happened and quoted the paper. I could almost feel him counting money at the other end of the phone. He was checking the paper’s website and the same story was there. Now he was probably rubbing his hands with glee—two instances of libel. Did I want to bankrupt the author as well as the paper? Not really even if it was that wretch, Jackson.
I had to ring off because of my meeting with Tom but as I went Jason suggested I tell Tom to get the university counsel to see what he thought about also suing the paper. Jason thought it sounded libellous as well.
I virtually ran across campus to Tom’s office where Pippa was on the phone and waved as I went by. I hadn’t seen for ages and thought we must get together some time and chew the fat as her two boys were probably in high school now.
“Ah, Cathy, come in and join the party,” welcomed my adopted father, all sign of his Lallan’s accent gone. It was an emergency meeting of the university council, of which I’m a member.
We discussed the article in the paper and I said because I’d been named I was in consultation with my own counsel, there was a murmur of understanding if not approval. My position on the university council is always subject to some scepticism as there are a few members who think I’m only there because Tom is my adopted father which tends to include, that I’m only a professor for the same reason. That I pretty well saved the university from the crook who was VC before and took charge of the council doesn’t seem to feature in their thoughts—not that I think much of anything flows in the void between their ears and if I had more time I might think how we could rid ourselves of the dead wood.
The meeting was long and tedious, the empty vessel brigade making the most noise but having the least constructive comments to offer—a not unusual occurrence. I actually said very little other than passing on the message from Jason, that the university had been slighted and would have every reason to sue. Several of the morons on the council wondered if that was absolutely necessary. I told them that if the paper printed a retraction within forty eight hours that met our demands, perhaps we wouldn’t sue. I then got lumbered with working with Tom to draft a letter for our solicitor to serve on the paper backed up with a threat of litigation.
Towards the end of the meeting I asked why we hadn’t considered our responsibility as an employer. That was met by silence which just one person asking what I meant. I couldn’t believe it, these are supposed to be intelligent people—perhaps I met them on a bad day, when their only functioning brain cell was in for a service.
They all seemed aware of our obligation towards students, who were twice referred to as paying customers, which annoyed me—no wonder education is in such disarray. However, an equal responsibility towards staff seemed to pass them by, with the exception of Tom, who nodded and I knew then I had another job from the meeting. I sent Diane a text asking her to look through our terms and conditions of employment on stress and mental health issues. She’d enjoy doing that, certainly more than I would. I’m essentially a field scientist not a manager, then a teacher not a manager, but here I am managing not only my own department but helping Tom, who is a good administrator and manager, run things because the others don’t want to know and those who show some interest in helping are always the most useless and either fail to come to any meetings for the project or fail to deliver the bits they volunteered. Sometimes a committee of one or two is most efficient, if not exactly democratic.
Lunch was sandwich and cuppa during our tedium which Pippa arranged, so my tea and tuna sandwiches were spot on, it pays to know people’s secretaries, they are the ones who actually do things. It’s a bit like the army, the officers make the strategy the NCOs run it, the latter call the former, Ruperts, I’ll let you work out why.
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